Braves Humble No. 7 USC Aiken In Series Opener
PEMBROKE – Nationally-ranked UNCP posted its 34th double-digit hitting performance of the season en route to a 17-run outburst that helped the 24th-ranked Braves snap No. 7 USC Aiken’s school record 16-game winning streak with a 17-3 win over the Pacers Friday evening at Sammy Cox Field.
UNCP (36-14, 13-11 PBC) got 15 hits from the first five hitters in its lineup, including Jason Coker who homered twice, drove in a career-best seven runs and scored four times on a 4-for-5 night at the plate. Kevin Dietrich tallied a trio of hits to break the school’s single season record for hits (85), while Seth Kivett and Edmund Locklear each turned in three hits as well. Joe Mangum registered a 2-for-5 plate tally and Tom Porricelli homered on a 1-for-5 outing as well.
USC Aiken (35-15, 16-9), ranked first in the latest NCAA Southeast Region poll, fell for the first time in April and got just one multi-hit tally on the night from Stephen Carmon who highlighted a 2-for-4 night at the plate with a 2-run homer in the ninth. The Pacers had posted double-digit run totals in six-straight contests heading into the weekend.
Matt McGovern (8-0) finished out a perfect regular season with eight-strong innings from the hill, scattering eight hits and striking out six while not allowing an earned run. USC Aiken starter Jason Cochcroft (7-2) had his personal seven-game winning streak snapped with a season-worst performance that saw him yield eight earned runs on as many hits in 3-1/3 innings of work.
Cochcroft sat down two of the first three batters he faced and looked to have all the tools to get out of the first, but Locklear produced a seeing-eye single through the right side to set the table for Coker who delivered a 3-run shot to straightaway centerfield for the early lead. With McGovern in full control of the Aiken lineup, the Braves would score in each of the next three innings as well to take a 9-0 lead into the fifth.
Aiken used a one-out single by Chris Grandinetti, as well as a costly catcher’s interference call, in the fifth to inevitably score its lone run of the game off McGovern, but UNCP scored single runs in each of the next two innings, before tallying a 6-run outburst in the bottom of the eighth.
The Pacers would cap the game scoring in the ninth, getting a leadoff double and an ensuing homer off of reliever Rudy Brown, to provide the final blows.
The two squads will close out the weekend series with a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday. The 1 p.m. first pitch will be preceded by a Senior Day ceremony in which the Braves will honor four players – Dietrich, Locklear, Ryan Kirkman and Jonathan Rivera – who will be playing their final two home games in the Black and Gold.